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Documenting a Current Hardware Configuration in Windows 2000

This article, by New Riders author Grant Miller, provides the information to gather prior to new Windows 2000 hardware installation, and it explains what you need to do before you actually install or upgrade to Windows 2000.
This article is excerpted from Windows 2000 Power Toolkit, by Barry Shilmover, Stu Sjouwerman, et al.
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Windows 2000 Professional and Server are picky when it comes to the hardware they support. This is part of the reason for Microsoft's insistence that hardware made by third parties meet the requirements for the operating system.

You are aware, I'm sure, of the many headaches created by faulty hardware and the trouble the operating system incurs because of it. Sometimes it is tempting to buy a cheap PCI network card, thinking that all you need to do is push it into the slot, fire the system up, and insert the floppy when asked. But the reality is that improper settings on the card or terrible coding in the driver could potentially knock another item's resources out with the result that the other item no longer functions correctly; or worse yet, it may render your operating system unusable. All this may happen because a programmer did not take the time to thoroughly test the code for the driver.

I have suffered through my share of faulty devices and drivers. You can imagine the shock when a simple job of adding a network card turned into a full day circus with the user wanting his computer back and the network administrator scrambling to find recovery disks.

For the most part, the operating system has shouldered the blame for problems similar to this. How many service calls have come in from users that are "sick of Windows!" when in fact it may be from a situation unrelated to the operating system.

To get a handle on this, Microsoft clamped down on the vendors producing the additional hardware and drivers so that users of the operating system could focus on the tasks at hand rather than wrestling with hardware- and driver-related issues.

You need to document the current hardware configuration before you actually install or upgrade to Windows 2000.

You must ensure that your computer's hardware meets the requirements of the operating system. One thing you don't want to happen is to go ahead and buy Windows 2000 and then find out that you cannot install it on your computer! You must be certain that you have met the minimum requirements, the specific hardware, and the drivers needed to install Windows 2000. By doing so, you will be able to fully utilize the strength and power of Windows 2000.

At this point, you might be asking yourself just exactly what information you need to gather prior to adding new hardware for Windows 2000. This is an excellent question, and as each computer is unique in some way, you gather general information first and then expand on it with whatever additional devices you may use.

Proper planning prior to the actual installation of new hardware is vital with Windows 2000. If you are planning to upgrade a Windows NT machine or Window 98 machine, more than likely you will need to purchase additional or new hardware prior to being able to complete the upgrade. In addition, you need to think about what type of role your computer will play. Is it going to be used as a workstation primarily using Office 2000, or is it destined to be a top-of-the-line machine for serving the Internet? Whichever way you decide to go, different resources may be needed to fulfill your designs for the PC. A computer that is going to work as a server for the company's database will require different types of resources than one that is going to be used as a word processing machine.

The BIOS is a critical device. Windows 2000 supports the new ACPI BIOS, and if you have it, your computer can utilize the full features of Windows 2000's PnP. You should note the type of BIOS (APM, ACPI), settings that are enabled or disabled, as well as the boot sequence. You also should note PnP settings.

Next, take the cover off the PC and get under the hood, so to speak. Note what is inserted into the PCI slots as well as the ISA slots. Check the modem: is it internal or external, what is the make and speed? Take a look at the sound card, the network card, and make the appropriate notes. Table 1 shows a list of items you should take into account prior to adding new hardware.

Table 1. Information to Gather Prior to New Hardware Installation


Information to Gather


APM, ACPI, BIOS type, settings, PnP settings


What is inserted and in which slots


What is inserted and in which slots


Internal, external, make, speed, COM port, IRQ, I/O


What devices are attached

Network Card

IRQ, I/O, DMA, make, version, bus type, connector type


Adapter, chipset, memory, maker, version

Sound Card

IRQ, I/O, DMA, make, version


Make, port (COM, PS/2 or USB)

SCSI Controller

Model, chipset, IRQ, bus type


Make, type, speed


The amount and type

Hard Disk

Size, partitions, usage

It is also important to document all routers, printers, RAID arrays, and RAS server hardware[md]include BIOS settings and the configuration of these peripheral devices.

As you can see, this is quite a bit of work for just one PC. If you are in charge of a medium- to large-sized network, the task can seem overwhelming. There is a tool that Microsoft recommends to use in these situations. Systems Management Server (SMS) can analyze your network's infrastructure, gather the hardware inventory, and automatically report the information to the SMS. Although going into depth about SMS is beyond the scope of this article, it is sufficient to state that SMS is a robust tool to use, and you can find more information about it at Microsoft's Web site.

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